Giants in the Earth

by: O.E. Rölvaag

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Beret's Emigrant Chest

Beret's emigrant chest represents her ties to her native country. Its inscription—"Anno 16-"—emphasizes the continuity essential of the lives of the immigrant pioneers. The chest also serves as a symbolic coffin: when Beret crawls into the chest, she figuratively wants to die and return to Norway. Furthermore, the use of the chest as an altar during the first communion service in the Spring Creek settlement serves to bridge the gap between the familiar Old World of Europe and the strange New World of America and helps confirm Beret's belief in the sacredness of her heritage.

Peder Victorious

As the first child of the settlement on Spring Creek to be born in America, Peder Victorious represents the growing Americanization of the immigrant settlers. The settlers embrace American customs by dropping their Norwegian names and adopting more pleasing last names to appear more "American." Peder's unusual middle name encapsulates Per's optimistic dreams. To Per, his youngest son represents the future of the community, and the name Victorious references the success Per dreams about achieving in America.

The West

In the American spirit of manifest destiny in the nineteenth century, the West represented opportunity and optimism for many pioneers and immigrants, who received free land by the American government in return for farming. The settlers who moved West dreamed about building a new life for themselves. However, the West represents two different things to Per and Beret. To Beret, the West represents her homesickness and her sense of being cut off from civilization. To Per, it represents his optimism and the future. In the last chapter of the novel, the role of the West appears ambiguous because it at once symbolizes death and continual optimism.